We can all agree that the world needs more kindness! I believe that the very best way to teach students how to be kind is by modeling kindness yourself. What better way to show students what it means to be kind?
If you want to take this even further, and get students thinking and talking about what it means to be kind and the importance of kindness, consider using mentor texts. There are books that show the importance of kindness, examples of kindness, and non-examples of kindness.
Check out the list below for my favorite mentor texts for teaching kindness!
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Frog and Toad are best friends, and constantly doing kind things for each other. Full of both adventures and misadventures, these stories are relatable and hilarious. They were written with younger students in mind, but I find that older kiddos enjoy them just as much. And, bonus point, because the text is simple, students can focus more on the message.
Alexander is a real mouse, who sends everyone screaming whenever they see him, and Willy is a wind-up mouse that everyone loves and wants to play with. When Willy finds himself in trouble one day, Alexander is the only one who can help! This story explores what it means to be a friend and the importance of accepting yourself as you are. It will leave your students thinking about kindness to others AND kindness toward themselves.
A favorite from Cynthis Rylant, this book tells the story of family, togetherness, and love. The relatives drive up from Virginia in their wacky-looking station wagon, spend what seems like hours hugging each other when they get there, and stay for weeks! There are many moments of kindness and simple joy in this story for students to think about.
Talk about tugging at the heartstrings! This story is about a lonely farmer named Lonesome John, who puts up a scarecrow one day in his field. A few days later John decides to give the scarecrow a head and face, and from there he keeps giving it more and more- clothes, a hat, and a raincoat, and eventually, he starts talking to it and even playing checkers with it! When a real-life boy named Sam shows up one early evening, Lonesome John slowly turns his attention from this stand-in friend to a real friend, who can even move his own checker pieces!
When George the giant decides to buy himself a new outfit, he goes from being the scruffiest to the spiffiest giant in town. On his journey home, George comes upon one animal after another who needs help. The giraffe has a cold neck, so George gives him his scarf. A goat needs a sail for his boat, so George gives him his new shirt. This goes on until almost all of George’s new, spiffy clothes have been given away. When the animals give him a card a golden crown and tell George he is the kindest giant in town, he realizes there are more important things than what you look like.
Alfie is invited to a birthday party for the first time, and he’s feeling a little nervous. He brings his special blanket along for comfort, but soon realizes that he won’t be able to fully enjoy the party unless he lets go of it. When the birthday boy puts on a scary mask and frightens Alfie’s friend Min, Alfie lets go of his blanket so he can comfort her. This simple story sends a powerful message about how someone else’s needs sometimes come before our own.
In this story, a little girl, Rosa, and her family have recently lost everything in a fire. Their neighbors are incredibly generous and help them get the things they need, but the girl’s mother dreams of having a soft, comfortable chair to sit on after working hard all day as a waitress. Rosa and her mother and grandmother work together to save all they can until they finally have enough for a new, comfy chair. (Bonus point- it’s the winner of a Caldecott Medal, so you know the pictures are amazing, too!)
Mr. Plumbean and his neighbors all enjoy how “neat” their street looks, with its matching red houses with olive-colored roofs. A seagull drops a splot of orange paint on his roof one day, so Mr. Plumbean decides he better repaint his whole house so that it will once again be the same as all the others on their street. Mr. Plumbean is hit by inspiration to paint his home in a way that mirrors his colorful dreams instead. His neighbors are upset, but can Mr. Plumbean convince them to use their imaginations to spice up their own homes?
In this retelling of a Japanese folktale, a young farmer is on his way to a sacred shrine when he runs into a young girl in need of help. He agrees to deliver a message to the girls parents in the terrifying red swamp. Despite the dangers, including snakes and crocodiles, the farmer keeps his promise. As a reward for his kindness, the red purse given to him by the girl, magically fills with money overnight, allowing him to become prosperous for life.
A family out enjoying a picnic finds a stray dog. The brother and sister play with him all day, even giving him a name, Willy. The parents won’t let them take the dog home though, saying his owners would miss him if they did. Of course, the kids can’t stop thinking about him, out there all alone. The next week the family returns and sees that Willy is still there, but is now being chased by the dog catcher. The family doesn’t miss their second chance to show kindness to the little dog!
If you are looking for more resources on kindness to use in your classroom, take a look at this freebie! In this print and digital Kindness Unit, you will find discussion task cards, a self-reflection quiz, a mentor text list, kindness activities page, a Random Acts of Kindness Journal, a character trait poster, kindness awards, and detailed teacher notes.
Or, take it one step further and check out this complete Character Education Unit, which covers Character Education for the entire year!
Take a look at these posts for even more great ideas for teaching kindness and character education!
- Teaching Kindness in the Classroom
- Spread Some Kindness Letter Writing Activity
- 5 Steps to Incorporating Character Education in the Classroom
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